The jealous outburst of Leontes at the beginning of the play seems wholly unmotivated--yet its intensity is both convincing and disturbing. In the background is a long tradition of misogyny and male fear of female sexuality.

One seemingly odd by-product of the cult of courtly love was a tendency for women to be seen as either ideal and perfect, or as the opposite. Thus if Leontes for any reason can no longer see Hermione as an angel, she must be a devil.